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What is e-waste and why should we care?

We attended a 'Restart Party' and learnt about electronic waste, a.k.a e-waste

In February we went to “Restart Party” organised by TEDI London (The Engineering and Design Institute) in Canada water. Restarters are a global network of people who help others repair at community events.

“The UK is currently one of the largest producers of household e-waste in the world. When broken or unwanted electronics are dumped in landfill, toxic substances like lead and mercury can leach into soil and water causing contamination.

Electronics also contain valuable non-renewable resources including gold, silver, copper, platinum, aluminium and cobalt. This means when we dispose of them without recycling, we are throwing away precious materials.” (Source: National History Museum website) 

The session was very inspiring. We learned about ways to open or join an electrical repair event, and recycling electronic waste, a.k.a. E-waste. 

The students and teachers have done a lot of research into E-waste and this is what they have found:

  • This type of waste is currently not being handled very well, if at all in the UK, so iut is a huge untapped resource.

  • A Lot of e-waste ends up in landfill, incinerated or shipped abroad

  • If it is exported is handled by mostly child and women labourers who are not protected against toxicity.

They found that there is a lack of awareness on this issue, so they are exploring how to better educate the community about this. As they put it: “People need to learn how to properly dispose of E-waste and about the ‘Right to repair’. Citizens have to get used to the idea and learn how to reuse, fix and keep materials and items in circulation.”

The longer we can save electricals and keep them in circulation or build them into something new, the more we are extending their product lifecycle. This also supports the circular economy.

The barriers to E-recycling currently are:

  • Lack of information that citizens need to properly handle E-waste 

  • Accessibility to electronic waste bins - they are not commonplace ( a local supermarket mentioned people dump bigger e-waste, like washing machines on their doorstep regularly)

  • Time - most people would only travel locally, within their neighbourhood, a maximum of 20 minutes for specialist recycling facilities.

The event was run by students and they are planning to launch an Electrical Repair Event once a month. See the link on their website here under TEDI events: . They are working with Southwark council to ideate solutions on educating the community, e-bins for smaller items and collection for larger e-waste.

 To find a repair cafe near you, follow these links:

 Further reading:

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